Spencer Durrant, KSL.com contributor

3 reasons winter is great for learning fly fishing

By Spencer Durrant, KSL.com Contributor | Posted - Feb. 26, 2020 at 12:17 p.m.


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SALT LAKE CITY — While a lot of Utahns get excited to hit the slopes for a day of skiing or snowboarding during winter, there's something else you can do to take advantage of Utah's world-famous winters.

You can learn to fly fish.

Often seen as a sport reserved for the warmer months of the year, fly fishing is something you can easily do year-round. Surprisingly enough, winter is one of the best seasons during which to learn. Let's look at three reasons as to why that is.

Reduced rates

The biggest hurdle most people face when getting into fly fishing is the cost of both the gear and a guide to help show them the ropes. Hiring a guide is the quickest way to shorten the learning curve in fly fishing, but prices for guides during the spring and summer seasons often exceed $300 per day.

During winter, however, most outfitters offer reduced rates on their guiding services. This gives you the chance to get the same education you would during the other months of the year but at a good discount.

Few crowds

During the spring, when blue-winged olive mayflies hatch on all the major rivers along the Wasatch Front, anglers pour out in droves to spend time on the water. After the blue-wings, many anglers are on the hunt for hatches of big stoneflies and caddis. These big bugs provide easily accessible, high-calorie meals for trout — which usually means the trout eat them with a bit more reckless abandon than is normal.

While fishing hatches like that is undeniably fun, it's intimidating for first-time anglers. Finding a place to fish, understanding river etiquette, and being comfortable with your own skill set are all things that newcomers to the sport struggle with; crowds only compound those issues.

During winter, the crowds thin out considerably. It's not uncommon to have most of a stretch of the lower Provo River to yourself on any given winter day. During summer, this river is full to bursting with float tubers and anglers.

Fewer crowds mean more river for you to fish and, perhaps most importantly, no one to see you make rookie mistakes every beginning fly angler makes.

Technically challenging

Rivers tend to run low and clear during winter. While that's great for beginners who are learning to spot fish, read water and identify river structures, it also works for the trout's advantage. Clear, low water means fish see you coming from miles away if you're not stealthy. A poorly-placed cast will spook an entire run of fish, and trout have the time to be critical of everything about your fly presentation.

Now, that probably sounds intimidating. But, what it offers is a situation where you can learn a lot of technical skills that will help you fish even better when the warmer weather rolls around. The challenging demands of winter fly fishing help turn you into a better angler, whether you're a beginner or season veteran.

Winter fly fishing is one of the more underrated sports in Utah, and it's arguably the best time of the year to learn how to fly fish. If you've been thinking about picking up the sport or are just curious about what all the fuss is about, then maybe a guided trip this winter is just the thing for you.

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Spencer Durrant

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